A report released this week by Cook Country Treasurer Maria Pappas isn’t getting the attention it deserves in the regular press. It’s devastating. The worst is summarized in the first eight pages of her Powerpoint presentation. Key points from it:
• The ratio of government workers to government retirees for all units of government within Cook County is just 1.07 to 1. There are 135,757 local government employees, compared with 126,528 retirees.
• The City of Chicago has far more retirees than workers: 47,592 retirees and 35,655 current workers.
• Of Cook County’s 547 taxing districts within the county (yes, you read that right), 169 have fewer current workers paying into pension funds than retirees receiving benefits. That’s way up from 130 in 2016.
Those low ratios of workers to retirees are critical because pensions become much more difficult, if not impossible, to sustain when the ratio goes upside down. Pension math depends on new workers contributing to the system, but they are getting outnumbered by retirees taking money out.
Details on those points and more for each unit of government are in the other data she released.
Big salute to Treasurer Pappas on transparency. Her office is a standout in Illinois for making data available and usable, and she doesn’t sugarcoat what she finds.
–Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.